Gary Bettman laid out the league’s return to play plan on Tuesday, detailing the format of a 24-team playoff and the draft lottery. There still remains no timetable for a return and there are lots of hurdles and things left to be negotiated, but we now know what the season will look like when it does resume.

How will seeding work?

As expected, 24 teams will make the playoffs, 12 from each conference according to points percentage. Each conference will play in a designated hub city which have not yet been determined. The top four seeds in both conferences will receive a bye. That includes the Capitals who rank third in the East. Those four teams will play a round-robin against one another to determine seeding. These games will be played by regular season rules.

The bye-in series will be best of five and are now set: Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia will receive byes in the Eastern Conference.

No. 5 Pittsburgh vs. No. 12 Montreal
No. 6 Carolina vs. No. 11 New York Rangers
No. 7 New York Islanders vs. No. 10 Florida
No. 8 Toronto vs. No. 9 Columbus 

St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas will receive byes in the Western Conference.

No. 5 Edmonton vs. No. 12 Chicago
No. 6 Nashville vs. No. 11 Arizona
No. 7 Vancouver vs. No. 10 Minnesota
No. 8 Calgary vs. No. 9 Winnipeg



Whether the teams will be reseeded each round or the playoffs will be conducted in a bracket is yet to be decided. Bettman also said the Stanley Cup Final and Conference Finals will be best-of-seven series, but it has not been determined the length of series prior to those rounds.


The 2019-20 regular season is officially complete. Bettman said the league hopes for Phase 2, players returning to team facilities for voluntary training, to begin in early June. Phase 3, training camps, will most likely begin sometime in July. Bettman would not give a timetable for Phase 4, the resumption of the season.

Bettman made clear that, despite this announcement, the NHL would not return until government and medical authorities authorize it.

In addition, the NHL announced it plans to hold the draft lottery on June 26. The draft lottery will consist of the seven teams that did not reach the playoffs plus the eight teams that lose in the buy-in round. Three teams will be drawn to determine the first, second and third picks.

The draft lottery will take place before those final eight teams are determined.

Because of that, if a buy-in team is selected for any of those three picks, there will be a second draft lottery in which every one of those final eight teams will be given equal odds to be selected for the given pick.

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